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First Person Personal

My personal views on a variety of matters ranging from popular culture to quantum physics to religion to politics to history to bushido to ... well, whatever I feel like, really. Warning: we all have agendas. Trust no one totally, myself most specifically included. Email me at wbrerwolf at gmail.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bearing Arms

When they found her body, they got every policeman that they could find to the site ASAP. When we got there, they told us that they had found the body of a woman, dead only for an hour, perhaps two.

She had been butchered with a knife.

Killing someone with a knife is one of the most intimate methods of murder imaginable. To kill a woman with a knife, you have to be standing close enough to her to feel the heat from her body. You smell the stink as her bowels empty, maybe spilling out through the gash in her belly. She will try to choke out a scream, or perhaps words. You see the expression of horrified disbelief on her face slowly fade into blankness. Perhaps, if you are clumsy or inexperienced or overly enthusiastic, you can taste her blood as it sprays from her body and coats your face, your chest, your arms, your legs, the entire front of your body. Sometimes you have to grab her, to hold her still until you can finish her off, and you can feel the life leave her.

To kill someone with a knife a person has to be extremely motivated or extremely angry or extremely warped mentally, or, more likely, some combination of the above.

Just the sort of person you don’t want to go looking for.

Just the sort of person it was my job to find.

They sent me up the railroad tracks, more to look for clues or, God forbid, another victim than in any expectation that the killer had lingered.

I went around a clump of scraggly brush and found him.

He was a white guy, blonde, in his mid twenties. He was wearing a pair of jeans, a hat and a work shirt. It seemed like he had been camping out here for a day or so. He looked up from where he was crouching, saw me, stood and started walking towards me.

"Police. Stay where you are."

He kept walking towards me. He was maybe thirty feet away now. I drew my gun, but kept it pointed to one side, towards the ground. "Police! Freeze!"

If anything, he sped up a bit, perhaps half-running towards me. The day was cool, but suddenly I was covered with sweat. I leveled my gun at him and screamed, I mean screamed "Police!!! Don't move!!!"

He kept coming towards me, quite a bit faster now.

He was maybe two steps away from me as he reached behind himself for something. A lot of guys keep their knives in a scabbard next to their spine, especially if they are hiding them. I wasn't thinking about that consciously, I wasn't thinking much of anything at the time, except "He's too damn close!!!"

So I shot him.

Three times.

In the chest.

pampampam.

Turns out he was reaching for a laminated card:

"I am a deaf mute."

==========================================================

The preceding was a slightly fictionalized account of one of the scenarios in a police shoot/don't shoot video I viewed/interacted with some years ago. It is amazing how totally submerged you can become in the action on the screen. To me, and I think to most people, the experience was terribly real.

I have no doubt that had I been holding a real gun, in a real situation, I would have shot the guy without hesitation the moment I considered him to be a threat, just as I did in the test.

It takes a very special sort of person to carry a gun and not use it under stress. I am not that sort of person, so I neither carry nor own a gun. This is not to say that I am a pacifist - I have stated elsewhere that I am not - but it is to say that I have chosen to bear weapons that allow both defensive and offensive options.

Let me define my terms - all weapons are somewhere between two extremes: harming the enemy and protecting the user. A shield, for instance, is primarily defensive. True, you can punch someone in the face with it and ruin his day, but it is mostly for making sure that you don’t get hurt. Most martial arts allow the experienced practitioner to avoid injury or to immobilize a foe without harming him while retaining the option to inflict damage. A stick in the hands of a skilled user is far more effective than just bare hands but is only slightly more inherently lethal and is my weapon of choice. A sword is considerably more offensive in design, but, like a stick, it can be used to parry or block incoming blows without harming anyone. A gun, especially a handgun, is almost useless for preventing a foe from harming the gunman unless the gunman shoots his foe first. A bomb or a weapon of mass destruction is totally useless for self-defense in the strict sense of the word.

Weapons such as guns, nuclear bombs and weapons of mass destruction thus place a huge premium on being used first. This means that anyone who has a gun or a nuke is enormously tempted to use his weapon against an enemy before the enemy can use his weapons. Thus, if I am the leader of a country with nuclear devices and a hostile country is developing such devices, I would at least consider using my weapons in a surprise attack before my enemy could attack me.

For cultural reasons, Americans could not bring themselves to launch preemptive strikes against other countries that were about to join the so-called Nuclear Club. Thus, first Russia, then other countries developed nuclear bombs. As is the human tradition, they then divided up into two sides, one side led by the United States, the other by the Soviet Union. One of the reasons that we still have civilization here on the third rock from the sun is that both major powers bought into the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD as it is called. Basically, each country attempted to develop its systems so that no first strike from the enemy could prevent a counterstrike that would exterminate the enemy country and, as it happens, possibly human civilization as a whole by side effects such as fallout or nuclear winter. As both sides wished very much not to die, war was averted.

However, this logic only works when both foes have a desire to survive that outweighs their hatred and xenophobia.

Do you doubt that Osama bin Lauden would use nuclear devices against us if he had them? Do you think that MAD would deter an organization that regularly practices suicide attacks?

So what do we do? Shoot first? Kill every Muslim on the planet? Turn the entire Middle East into a smoking graveyard, Israel included? And then exterminate anyone who could threaten a Pax Americana?

Would George W. Bush refuse to carry a gun if he thought he would use it without need?

Is Condalesa Rice’s smoking gun to be held by an American hand?

Is it necessary to destroy the world in order to preserve it?

I don’t think so. I don’t believe that our culture will allow us to do such things to eliminate a potential threat. For us, and for our leaders, I think that we would not just think, “That’s wrong,” but “That’s un-American”. It’s just not the sort of thing that Americans do.

There is an old Japanese saying that comes to mind: “The best sword is the sword in the scabbard.” I think that we need to keep our swords sheathed no matter how badly we are scared. I think that we need to use only the level of force that is required in a given situation. But just what is the appropriate level of force? Who is it to be directed against? How is all of this to be determined and by who? All of these are difficult questions in a society such as ours where the answers a leader provides need to be more than just correct; they need to be popular as well.

I have, as always, a lot of questions and very few answers. I really hope that someone has more answers and better ones, and that he or she is in a position to implement them.

And I really, really hope that President Bush and his advisors are a lot smarter and wiser than I am giving them credit for.

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